Santa Cruz County History - Libraries & Schools

Penny University
by Carmen Morones

A trio of professors from the University of California at Santa Cruz started the Penny University in 1974. Page Smith, Professor of History, Paul Lee, Professor of Philosophy and Mary Holmes, Professor of Art History, created the Penny as an off campus salon that would be free and accessible to the public. It began as a gathering of artists and intellectuals who met every Monday at 5 p.m. at Cafe Pergolesi, in the courtyard behind Bookshop Santa Cruz (which was then located at 1547 Pacific Ave.). At the time there were guest lecturers such as Gary Patton, County Supervisor, who held discussions on civic matters. But more often than not, the professors held court and facilitated discourse on such subjects as: the morality of the Brothers Karamozov, the elements necessary for a viable space station, the mathematical nature of music, and art.

After the Loma Prieta earthquake, the Penny University moved to the Parish Hall at Calvary Episcopal Church at 532 Center St. As of April, 2002, the Penny University continues to meet there on Mondays at 5 p.m. With Page Smith's death in 1995, Jim Bierman, Professor of Dramatic Literature, joined as the new Chair. Mary Holmes passed away on January 21, 2002.

Source: Jim Bierman; Hukill, Traci. Metro Santa Cruz.11 - 5-12 - 97, p. 19.

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